Words: Ashley Watson
Photographs: Ollie Reimann & Ashley Watson
I knew it was going to be a good one - even before we’d broken passed the M25. There were three of us to start. Myself, Ollie, who I’d met working on a piece for a fledgling motorcycle magazine he and a few friends were putting together. Then there was Henry, an actor by trade. A friend put us in touch when I put the feelers out to see who was keen to explore a network of trails I’d found a month or so before on a solo mission to Dartmoor.
The plan was to head down for the weekend, give the Eversholt Jacket a final shakedown and to take a few photographs along the way. We had originally thought to ride down but Henry’s bike was in a number of boxes mid-way through a re-build. Ollie’s well-loved XT500 could have made the distance but whichever way you cut it, a four-hour shift on an Enduro bike isn’t much fun. We all had big trips under our belts and so didn’t need to prove that we could go for ten rounds on a motorway. We picked up a rental and loaded my W650 next to Ollie’s in the back. For all of us, this was as much about having a couple nights under canvas and so we were happy to share the two bikes amongst us. The other option would have meant Henry missing out which didn’t sit well.
Heading South West out of London on a Friday is what it is. Our ambitious estimate of four hours quickly turned to a realistic five. There’s nothing quite like getting to know someone as the miles pass by on the way to somewhere special; a vacuum in which to find common ground in shared passions and past experiences. The possibility of what a weekend of riding bikes might bring making everything that much better.
We arrived in the evening, and could just make out the shape of the moor breaking the horizon ahead. The sharp, clear air of an open landscape reminding us that we’d transported ourselves to somewhere new. The first night was exactly how you’d want it to be; a plate of hearty food, beers, a map and a couple of hours spent tracing lines into a plan. We all had our eyes on an early start; knowing an alarm would be rewarded with the first of the light. It was refreshing to know that we were on the same page. I knew was going to be a good one.
"Rank upon rank of conifers march for miles to form Bellever Wood; their deep shade of green a constant upon which to measure the changing temper of the bordering moorlands."
Dawn didn’t disappoint. After breaking camp, it was our chance to explore. In the middle of Dartmoor, rank upon rank of conifers march for miles to form Bellever Wood; their deep shade of green a constant upon which to measure the changing temper of the bordering moorlands. Tracks, carved by the heavy machinery used to manage the forest run at their feet – snaking their way through. It’s a place to lose yourself; and in doing so, a place that you can meet the thousands of others who take pleasure in the same simple recipe the world over. We had hours of fun. Pictures tell this story better than words.
Three turned to four as Ernie, a good friend from Cornwall, found his way up-country to meet us. He arrived as we were taking a moment for lunch. The bikes were covered in mud, as were our clothes. I looked over; Ollie and Henry both had grins etched into their weathered faces. I could feel my cheeks ache and figured I must look the same. Ernie couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
An overcast sky that’d been threatening started to clear. We took our chance and left the forest to find open moorland. Our luck held. As the lanes lead us this way and that, the afternoon stretched into evening and the clouds parted for the final act. We paused at the top of a hill. Shadows deepened and the course scrub looked to be on fire. We felt the last heat of the day marvelling at a baron landscape that stretched uninterrupted for miles.
Some of the trips I’ve been on are physical, a test of endurance. Some conjure meaning from the miles that tick by. Others are about the people that you travel with. This was one of those. Everything clicked, no one needs to ask, everyone played a part. Dinner was cooked on the campfire followed by stories, stories and whiskey, whiskey into the night. It was one to remember. I forgot the salt though; the stew could have done with a bit more salt.
We parted ways the following morning by the stream we had camped by; Ernie pointed South West and we three towards the North East. As we crossed the threshold back into London, I felt incredibly lucky to have had this experience. I knew it was going to be a good one.
These were a few of the items that held their own on this trip:
We’d like to thank to Blackhorse Lane Atelier, Stay Exposed, Redwing & Vango for supporting this expedition.